Archive for July, 2015

My 5 Favorite Bars

Someone asked me about my favorite beer spots. This made me go all Thrillisty in these warm days of summer. So many places to mention… So I decided to split it up into my five favorite bars, breweries/tasting rooms and shops. First part is about my five favorite bars. Be aware, this is a list of beer cafe’s I really like visiting, it isn’t a list of the best ones, or the bars with the best beer selection. So don’t go naming other bars you think deserve to be on the list.

Here they are in alphabetical order.

Bierhuys in Woerden

The most unknown of the 5. Why did it make my list? Well, for one it is the closest to where I live so I come here more often than in other bars. But apart from that it is a great place to go. Located just outside of the city center in Woerden, it has the feel of a living room with a bar. The public seems to be mostly locals with the accidental tourist wandering in after a day in beautiful Woerden.

There may not be a lot of taps but the bottle selection is excellent and they try and have many local beers so there is a chance of trying something new almost every time. They have two house beers that are made by De Molen in neighboring Bodegraven, so you know that is going to be good. And talking about locals, they come here often too and they seem to visit it like another room of their house.

De Drie Dorstige Herten in Utrecht

A bar I really should be going to more than I do now. Within a mile there are at least 4 other great beer places you can go to but this is my favorite. I will write about the Golden Square in Utrecht later but in a city already swamped with excellent places to drink craft beer De Drie Dorstige Herten (yes, you are right, it means The Three Thirsty Deer) ranks #1 in my book. It is small, almost living room size but the owners’ knowledge is limitless and the selection as good as I have seen anywhere in the country. They support local brewing a lot and Maximus is even their house brewer. GO HERE!! I will more often. You will not be disappointed.

De Koffer in Groningen

As I have written before beer culture in Groningen is rapidly increasing with new bars and breweries opening all the time. But way before this all started De Koffer was already the standard bearer for what a good beer café is supposed to be. And they didn’t stand idly by sticking to an old formula while the world around them was changing, they in fact are on the frontline of the revolution. A huge board with just Dutch beers occupies one of the walls but they have so much more than that with a great selection of foreign beers as well. The public is diverse with students, tourists and locals all frequenting the bar.

The managers of De Koffer (The Suitcase) are the best too and know a lot about beer. They keep their staff up-to-date and it is one of the few places I can go to where they will always have something unfamiliar for me on tap. I also love it that they know their customers and will always great you when you walk in.

In De Wildeman in Amsterdam

Need I really say more? Only the Arendsnest surpasses it in selection, but because In De Wildeman has beer from all over the world it is maybe a little more exciting. As with Woerden and De Koffer I admit it helps that you are recognized when you walk in. It makes it more personal and keeps you coming back. I usually come here during the day when it is not too busy and you can sit on the wooden bench overlooking it all: the people walking in, the knowledgeable guests asking about the latest beer, the newbies who just want to try something new. All the while with the board above the door looking down on us. There are people here I see every time, but also tourists find their way, helped by Tripadvisor and Ratebeer no doubt.

Het Hijgend Hert in Vijlen

I admit that I have only beer here once. Also, the beermenu isn’t as great as in the other 4 places. In fact, I can name 20 other café’s that have a better beer menu. Why is this in the Top 5 anyway? Because it is a location without equal. Located on top of a hill looking out over parts of Limburg. Farm animals are nearby and a beautiful forest behind it. It is about as far away from most people as possible. For someone in Groningen a city like Bremen is closer. It is also the highest located café in the country. I know that doesn’t mean much, the coffeemachine on top of the Empire State Building is higher for example but in a country as flat as ours it is at least something. For the greatest setting imaginable go to the Panting Deer, I am going to plan vacations nearby just to go here again.

Rotterdam: Kaapse Brouwers, nothing, nothing, and some decent bars

Revolutions move at different speeds. This is clear when you look at rise of craft beer in the Netherlands. Utrecht started, and Amsterdam followed soon after and in the last two years more cities are joining the bandwagon: Eindhoven, Nijmegen, Groningen, Haarlem and more saw the opening of new bars and breweries have. Rotterdam, the second largest city, has been lagging behind however. Sure, Rotterdam has some decent Belgian Beer Café’s and some good stores but for a long time De Pelgrim was the only thing beer related worth going to in this huge city. Our visit two years ago was enjoyable with decent beer and great food. But cities like Haarlem and Nijmegen have more interesting bars in a square mile than Rotterdam has in the entire metropolitan area. And with the world largest harbor next to the city, this is surprising. DSC01438

Kaapse Brouwers

But like many other cities Rotterdam too is finding the way upwards with new breweries and cafés. The most significant boost came a year ago when the Kaapse Brouwers opened as part of the Fenix Food Factory, an instant success. In an old factory building on one of the islands in the river food producers (cheese, meat, beer, bread, coffee, cider) came together in a cool, and tasty, collective. It really is a collective with open doors or no doors at all. If you want coffee and your friend wants beer and together you want a cheese platter you can sit wherever you like. The local / homemade / organic scene has found a new to-go place here at the Fenix Food Factory: food made by craftsmen, not people looking to sell the most stuff for the most profit. 20150529_150450Two weeks ago I wrote that the Uiltje Bar in Haarlem has become a new pilgrimage site for craft beer lovers. You can add Kaapse to the list as well. Like at the Uiltje Bar the choices are vast with apart from their own Kaapse brews, beer from good breweries across Europe. And like any good beerplace these you can get a tasting board? Block of wood? Anyway, you can get the Kaapse Beers. You can also get a board with lighter beers or with heavier beers, and with 30 taps to choose from that won’t be a big problem. The big Kaapse beers are still made at De Molen, so that should give you an idea of the quality. They do have a small brewing installation in the back where the day we were there Ramses and De Bebaarde Brouwer happened to be brewing.

So is there really nothing else in Rotterdam? If you want Belgian Beer there are apparently a few places you can go, but since this blog is about Dutch beer and we don’t want to dwell in the past we went looking for something else and found two bars through the magic of Ratebeer and the Dutch BeerApp that seemed to be ok.

DSC01397Proeflokaal Reijngoud

A downtown bar that serves quite a lot of food. Unfortunately they didn’t have the pulled pork sandwich I had set my eyes on. Quite a lot of taps, but no extraordinary ones. The Boulevard Brewing was the most exciting one next to mostly Belgian and some Dutch taps (Jopen for example). They have quite a few bottles of Kaapse, but the other Rotterdam breweries were not to be found. The high ceiling and nice interior does make it a fairly nice place to go, but I doubt I will return any time soon.

Bokaal

Now this place was quite good. Was it good because of the choice of beer? No, let’s be frank about that. The huge outside terrace mostly had people drinking Belgian ales, German Weizens and Dutch pilsners, but the staff seemed to be a little more exciting about the other things they had on tap and they were eager to tell me they had a Citra Pale Ale made by Kees Bubberman (Brouweij Kees) on tap and were then eager to know what I thought about it. They also had a bottle by a small Rotterdam brewery called Kaf & Koren which was fine, good to see Bokaal somewhat supports local brewers. So Bokaal does have room for good Dutch and local craft beer, but I doubt that it will ever turn into a specialty beer café. The Heineken propaganda book had an interview with the owner who announced his favorite beer was a glass of Brand. Not bad I know, but no craft. Worth a visit? Definitely, you might find a beer gem and if not their platters of meats and/or cheeses are very fine.

Shops

We didn’t go to any shops because of baggage constraints, but I had been to Bierenzo before and that is more than ok, from word of mouth and the book of faces I have a clue that Plan B is more than excellent so next time I will go there, but I can already give you advise based on just that to go here. DSC01457

Future A new brewery will open in the north, so hopefully that will give another boost to brewing in Rotterdam, because it needs it. Rotterdam is a fascinating city with old neighborhoods but with a very modern downtown area. You can easily spend a weekend there and more. And maybe in one year the weekend can be interlaced with brewery and bar visits too. But when the local bars open their menus for local beer, that can grow too.